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Booking your next holiday? Beware these Airbnb scams

With vacations in full swing, cybercriminals will be looking to scam vacationers looking for that perfect accommodation.

Summer vacation planning is in full swing, and most of us are looking to travel again while adhering to the preventive measures that countries have in place regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. And traveling, of course, means looking for accommodation as well. While some are fans of going through travel agencies and booking hotel rooms, others like to experience cities through accommodations located in hip, authentic neighborhoods that can be booked through services like Airbnb. However, before you rush to book that comfy adorable stay, you should be wary of scams that you might encounter along the way. 

Paying outside of the Airbnb platform 

You’ve finally stumbled upon your dream vacation place that you’d like to book. The photos look good, it’s near the landmarks you’d like to visit or located in a hip local neighborhood and everything seems to look great in general. However, once you connect with the host, they try to persuade you into communicating and paying outside the confines of Airbnb’s platform. That should immediately be a red flag since everything should be done through the app itself, if for no other reason than that the service provider has no compulsion to refund fraudulent charges paid outside its platform. In some cases, some additional charges may have to be paid in person, such as resort fees, security deposits (for example in hotels), or local occupancy tax, but most of the time you’ll pay the entire price of the stay during the booking process on Airbnb. 

Even Airbnb itself warns against such scams and urges clients  to immediately report any hosts who request off-site payments. So, in case that happens, refuse to deal with the host and contact Airbnb so it can sort out the issue. 

Here is a great offer, click on this link! 

Most people travel, be it for business or pleasure. And traveling is even more attractive now than ever with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, something scammers are very aware of. Therefore, it won’t come as a surprise that they will try to dupe unsuspecting victims into parting with their access credentials and personal information using phishing campaigns where they will try to impersonate Airbnb. You might receive an email that, for all intents and purposes, looks like a legitimate email touting a great offer. However, if you click on the link, it either will redirect you to a fake login page and once you type in your credentials the scammers will have them, or it might download malware onto your device. 

While most email services are now more than capable of filtering out these kinds of scams, some may make it through the cracks. So, if you ever receive an unsolicited email, especially one containing a link or attachment, don’t click on it. To see the full URL you can hover your cursor over the link to see where it redirects to, and to remain safe it’s better to visit the official website directly by typing it out in the address bar of your browser. 

Apartments that sound too good to be true 

While you’re perusing the Airbnb platform for the perfect summer rental home, you might stumble upon offers that at first sight might blow your mind. Usually, that involves luxurious residences, at upscale locations for ludicrously low prices – imagine a villa on the French Riviera for a couple of hundred dollars a night. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it probably is – you will most likely have stumbled upon a scam and you should definitely avoid booking the place. 

However, if you still decide you want to scratch that itch, it’s best to do your due diligence. The first thing you could do is to look at the general area where the apartment or house is located and analyze the average rental prices to see if it is unusually low. Another handy option is reverse-searching the image to see what comes up – you might find that the images have been pilfered from another website, which means that the offer or property is probably fake. If your suspicions are confirmed you should immediately report it to Airbnb.  

Beware of fake reviews 

As you are on the hunt for your accommodation of choice, you’ll probably be looking for the combination of best price, location, and comfort. That usually entails a lot of searching and doing your due diligence by browsing through the reviews left by previous tenants. While you’re searching for a place that has a series of great reviews, you’d best be on the lookout for anything suspicious. For example, rather fresh listings that already have a curiously large amount of good reviews, or if the reviews look too much alike; these can all be signs that a scam is afoot. 

The best course of action would be to look for hosts that have gone through Airbnb’s verification process. Scammers probably aren’t going to use real documents to get themselves verified if they’re planning to scam folk out of money. Another thing you might want to look for is hosts who have achieved Superhost status, since they have a history of providing stellar service and a low cancelation rate. 

In summary 

It has been a long year, or more, and most of us are looking towards having a bit of R&R. While well deserved, we shouldn’t let our guard down and should remain wary of any signs of scams while we go in search of amazing deals for glorious holiday stays. To sum it up: remain vigilant when it comes to spectacular offers, run a background check and review the accommodations you are looking to book, and be especially wary of unsolicited emails with links to amazing deals.